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Twenty-Second Edition of the Amsterdam GLBTQ Film Festival

by Werner Borkes in Films & Books , 04 maart 2019

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar
Length: 16 minutes

Again, from March 14 until March 24, 2019, cinema Het Ketelhuis on the Westergasterrein will serve for eleven consecutive days as the GLBTQ hotspot for movie lovers. The twenty-second edition of the Pink Movie Days has an impressive number of 140 offerings of the most beautiful and interesting gay cinema.

To get in the mood, but also to choose from the extensive program, we take you through some highlights.

Locker Room Stories

One of the films that is eagerly anticipated is Mario,” an urgent and romantic drama from Switzerland about one of the last taboos: gays and soccer. Mario is a young successful soccer player who has recently fallen madly in love with Leon, the new soccer player from Hannover who is added to the team.  But two soccer players coming out of the closet is unheard of, especially when the selection for the first team in Hamburg is imminent. Which player is most likely to succeed? Mario can only think about Leo, and the club has started to notice. Rumours start rearing their ugly head. Mario sees his chances of becoming a professional soccer player under threat, but he doesn’t want to lose Leon either.

But there are more interesting films with sports and GLBTI+ as a theme. “Erik & Erika,” for instance, tells the incredible, but true story of ski sensation Erika Schinegger, who became world champion in the late 1960s. This is very much to the liking of the big bosses in Austrian skiing, who are unscrupulous in their hunt for medals.  But Erika has a secret: she grew up as a girl but is intersexual: genetically a man, but with all the male organs beneath her skin only. When this almost comes out, she is mercilessly pressured to undergo surgery. Eventually, Erika chooses to become Erik. This potentially heavy subject is, however, treated with a light note. With a lot of charm and a lovely 1960s styling, this movie is above all entertaining and made with Erik’s full cooperation.

Despite the growing acceptance of the GLBT+ community, the world of sports is still a disturbing environment for many, both on and off the sports field. The documentary “Alone in the Game” focusses on homophobia and transphobia within the world of sports through conversations with top athletes, such as soccer player Robbie Rogers and skier Gus Kenworthy. The result is a compelling scrapbook full of moving images and stories of struggle, perseverance and victory.

In the opening scene of “Sodom,” we see a naked English young man chained to a lamppost by handcuffs. Abandoned by his mates on his bachelor night in Berlin, an upcoming soccer talent is saved from his plight by the charming Michael, and one thing leads to another. The chemistry between these main characters splashes off the screen, but this intimate portrait also offers surprising insights: (bi)sexuality, relationships, self-acceptance and growth.

Also, in the beautiful and moving closing film of the festival “Giant Little Ones” homophobia in the changing rooms is hinted at. Two popular teenagers, who are part of the swimming team of the school, have been best friends for years. But how will things progress after a wild party, at which a lot more happens between them? Their different reactions to this will pull their friendship apart, with both families also having to show color.

The “Liberace van ‘lucha libre’” (free wrestling) is what Cassandro is regularly called. In the documentary “Cassandro, the Exotico!” this Mexican show fighter has earned his spurs in the category “exóticos,” tough gender-bending wrestlers in glitter costumes. In this intimate 16mm portrait, the viewer follows the sympathetic entertainer and top athlete during the last days of his career of more than twenty-six years. After numerous bone fractures, concussions and alcohol and drug abuse, his body is starting to fail.

Special Guest

Never before has the festival shown three films with the same lead. A great reason to invite the French actor Félix Maritaud (whom we know from the unparalleled “120BPM”) as a special guest for introductions and Q&As at the screening of “his” films.

First of all, there is “Jonas,” in which two clever interwoven events from the life of the title character are shown to the viewer with surprising twists: the memory of his childhood love that ended dramatically in 1995 and his current search for balance, now that he apparently has become an attractive thirty-something (Maritaud) with a steady boyfriend and a job, but regularly falls back into adultery and pub fights.

For the enthusiast of the more obscure films, our special guest also performs in “Knife + Heart.” With a dazzlingly stylish Vanessa Paradis, lots of masculine beauty, bright colors, a cool Electro soundtrack and a crazy story, this is a film that defies all descriptions: Paris, end of the 1970s. Anne continuously produces gay porn with a bunch of loyal but not too stable young men. Her own life is in shatters: her drinking has destroyed her relationship with girlfriend Lois, and now a mysterious serial killer has surfaced. What to do? Produce a porn noir about a serial killer who goes after a couple of not too stable young men.

The third title with the Special Guest is “Sauvage,” a very impressive and intense drama that is fully carried by Félix Maritaud, who won several prizes for his starring role. Twenty-two-year-old Leo sells his body for cash. Men come and go, but he is also looking for love, for example in fellow escort Ahd, but also with some customers he has more than just “business contacts.” Explicit sex scenes are certainly not avoided, but the movie is never judgemental or sensational. Sex is a natural part of Leo’s life, both personally and in order to make money, but the film actually revolves around his inner struggle.

Back to the Future

Like every year, the festival also focuses on HIV and AIDS related stories, as well as productions that both look back and look at the current state of affairs.

During the first wave of the AIDS crisis, after three years Adrian (Cory Michael Smith from “Gotham”) goes back to his place of birth in the film “1985.” With an unspeakable tragedy in New York weighing down on his shoulders, Adrian tries to reach out to his adolescent brother Andrew, while tackling his relationship with his conservative and religious parents by finally telling them that he is gay. Shot in black-and-white 16mm, we get a unique look at a crucial moment in American history.

A movie that really dates from 1985 is the impressive “Buddies.” This very first movie about AIDS recently was digitally restored, and will now be shown for the first time in the Netherlands for a special screening during the Pink Movie Days. David becomes a voluntary “buddy” for AIDS patient Robert. As the two men spend more time together, a deep friendship develops, and the couple soon grow closer than they ever thought possible. This film, directed with great sensitivity, was made to finally make AIDS visible to the world, and was a passion project of the director, who, two years after the completion of the film, unfortunately died as a result of an AIDS related illness. In recent years, many variations on the HIV/AIDS theme were made, but this very first low budget movie is perhaps the sincerest and has not lost any of its powers.

The screening of the biopic “Mapplethorpe” at the festival was in the air for a while. From his first days as a starting artist in 1967 and getting to know Patti Smith, to his great triumphs, the controversies and his far too early death from AIDS in 1989, this film completely focusses on Robert Mapplethorpe. His relentless ambition is just as important as his obsession with the perfect image, whether this is a delicate blossom or a penis in full erection. Matt Smith (former Dr. Who actor and Prince Philip in “The Crown”) plays impressively in this portrait of an artist whose work still is far ahead of his time.

At the moment, 36.7 million people worldwide are HIV positive. “I Will Speak, I Will Speak!” focuses on the diversity of this group with a special festival screening. The stories are intimate, moving and yet full of life, portrayed with great compassion. We see the fight with HIV on five continents. The virus and the stigma on HIV are not yet defeated. With their stories, transgender people, long term survivors, gay men, sex workers, drug users and young people show that we are at a crossroads.

Around the World in 80 Gays

From our comfortable cinema chair we travel all over the world and we get acquainted with other cultures, but especially enjoy relatable story lines. First, we travel to South Africa, where the musical coming-of-age movie “Kanarie” takes place in... 1985! Teenager Johan, who was always bullied because of his flair for British new wave music and his love for Boy George, has to go into the army. He auditions for the army choir the Kanaries, and during a tour he develops feelings for a fellow choir member. Against a background of apartheid, religion and war, he begins to question everything he knows, leading to a confrontation with his commanding officers.

The eighteen-year-old Slovenian Andrej from “Consequences” has gotten into heaps of trouble in the past and consequently ends up at a boarding school. There, it comes to a rivalry with Zeljko, the leader of the group. Zeljko uses every means possible to incorporate Andrej in his criminal plans, and does not shy away from exploiting Andrej’s emerging feelings for him. All this in a very tough world, where sexuality is a tool, just like alcohol and drugs, to create solidarity but also to create division. This creates impressive and exciting dynamics, but above all also very tender moments that will stay with you for a long time.

Segundo is fourteen and works with his father, a respected builder of altarpieces, in “Retablo.” He is bored and dreams of discovering new things. Cracks appear in the relationship between father and son when Segundo is confronted with a secret side of his father he had no idea of. The idealized image Segundo had of his father falls apart. But wait. Perhaps he is more like his father than he thought? The story toys with old clichés such as a father-son relationship full of virile emotions. The film was shot in the lush landscapes of the Andes and is a delicate and sensitive gem.

Antonio and Agostino grew up together in a small Sicilian village. At the start of “Drive Me Home” they have lost sight of each other for fifteen years. They are both travelling through Europe without a clear goal or plan. But now Antonio is looking for his best friend and truck driver, Agostino, to prevent the sale of the house that both cherished. Close to each other in the truck cabin, their shared past resurfaces, as well as old wounds. An intense and fascinating story about origin, friendship, clashing characters and forgiveness.

Closer to home is the world premiere of “Galore.” An entertaining and intimate portrait of drag sensation Lady Galore on the verge of her greatest transformation ever. In the European drag community, she has become indispensable through her years of commitment to visibility and solidarity. Dutch Sander den Baas, the man behind Lady Galore, is noticing that this commitment starts taking its toll. Although his surplus weight gives Lady Galore that extra pizazz and brought her success, Sander is struggling with more and more health problems. A stomach reduction should ensure a healthy weight again in a short time. But what is left of Lady Galore?

Another fascinating documentary comes from Portugal: “Until Porn Do Us Part.” This is the story of Fostter Riviera, an internationally acclaimed porn actor. He is proud of his work, and does it with pleasure. But it is also the story of his conservative mother, Eulália, who at first is horrified when she finds out about her son’s career. The love of a mother, however, is stronger than convention, and she starts exploring and investigating to better understand her son. This will put all her ideas and values under pressure, but she fearlessly battles on.

Socrates” is an impressive film produced by young people about a fifteen-year-old Brazilian boy whose life becomes much more difficult after his mother dies. As the cause of death will have to be investigated, it will take a long time before he can collect her ashes. In anticipation of the moment when he can scatter his mother’s ashes, he tries to find work because the rent still needs to be paid. Not only does he find a job, he also falls in love with a boy with whom he starts an intense relationship.

Nineteen-year-old “José” lives alone with his mother, but now in Guatemala City in one of the world’s most dangerous, religiously conservative and impoverished countries. Accepting that things are the way they are, he spends his free time on dating apps and with fleeting sexual contacts. When he meets migrant Luis, the anonymous sex develops into a relationship. José quickly experiences the bitter-sweetness of heartbreak caused by the love of his life.

The two main characters in “Song Lang” seem to be opposites: one is a tough gangster, who is a merciless debt collector who lets no one stand in his way; the other is a star in theatrical Vietnamese operas. In this visual gem, set against the backdrop of Saigon in the 1990s, the two different men are brought together by a shared past. Unexpected feelings unravel.

Age is a heavy burden, but in “Tucked” Jack takes in enough alcohol to numb each and every ailment. Night after night he performs as witty Jackie, with a wig and heels reaching up to the heavens. Then the young Faith also starts working at the club, and the two get close. Both are not what they seem: Jack is straight, has an ex-wife and a daughter, and although Faith exudes self-confidence, he is abandoned by his family and sleeps in his car. The two develop a kind of parent-child relationship in this enchanting and heart-warming drama, where the chemistry between the two actors has already led to prizes awarded by both the public and judges.

Fingerlicking Good

Great entertaining movies with tasty-looking leads, as well as a good story and acting? We can’t get enough of that! The festival has it all.

What about “El Ángel”? With the looks of a movie star and a talent for theft, Carlitos wraps everyone around his little finger. After meeting Ramon at his new school, the two continue on a journey of theft, violence and love. The press is having a field day, and the “angel of death” becomes a true cult star, before eventually the curtain falls after a series of burglaries and murders. With swinging music, a smooth 1970s styling and very pleasant actors, this may seem like a far-fetched story, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is based on the true history of Carlos Robledo Puch, with forty-six years the longest serving prisoner in Argentina.

The handsome but naive Jim in “Postcards From London” wants to get out of the parental home, and leaves for London, soon to find himself broke. He is taken under the wings of the Raconteurs, a very special group of escort boys. They specialize not so much in physical paid love, as in intimate intellectual conversations about art and culture.
This is portrayed in a fantastic, surrealist style in which we go from Caravaggio to Francis Bacon to Lucien Freud, with more than enough hints to “Querelle” and other gold kitsch. With rising star Harris Dickinson, this is a feast for the eyes, but in which humour and warmth are not forgotten.

In “Papi Chulo” Sean, as a popular TV weatherman in Los Angeles, has the perfect Hollywood smile, until he gets a breakdown in front of a running camera. Once at home in his equally perfect but empty house, it soon becomes clear that he is not cut out to be a handyman. For this he hires the older immigrant Ernesto, who hardly speaks English. This does not matter, as Sean needs to do the talking and it is actually quite useful that someone does not speak at all. Director John Butler (“Handsome Devil” - RFD 2017) plays with the contrast between outer perfection and the inner sadness of the weatherman, beautifully played by Matt Bomer.

Juan lives in a suburb of Buenos Aires and plans to rent a room to colleague Gabriel, nicknamed “The Blond One.” The men hang about, as they do. Having friends over, drinking beers, watching telly. Slowly things develop, eyes become more intense, and touches are no longer coincidental. A friendship becomes a passionate affair. This new movie by director Marco Berger (“Ausente,” “Plan B,” “Sexual Tension: Volatile”) is perhaps his best (and most sexual) film to date. Again, he shows himself a master in showing erotic tensions, stolen looks through a half-open door, melancholy, but also open surrender to each other and to feelings.

Johannes and his wife Lydia run an evangelical parish near Stuttgart in “Your Will Be Done”. During the process of converting people, they meet the talented and attractive street musician Simon (Jannis Niewöhner from the audience award winning “Jonathan” - Pink Movie Days 2017). They invite him to perform at their church, but he is dismissive - clearly not the religious type. A few nights later they discover that Simon, violently ill, has collapsed on the street and decide to take him in as the good Christians they are. As Simon is struggling with addiction, they allow him to stay longer to kick the habit. Now that the desirable Simon lives under their roof, his presence provokes something in Johanneso that he has never let himself feel before. These long-repressed desires cause the Minister to face a crisis of faith that can threaten everything that he and his wife have built together.

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood” tells the incredible life story of Scotty Bowers, who for decades provided the great Hollywood stars with men (and women).
Now well into his nineties, he tastefully talks about the secret parties, the excesses, the gossip and the slander. Did it all truly happen like that? We will never really know, but this documentary - and his infamous 2012 memoirs “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars” - are accompanied by more than enough archive material and interviews with contemporaries to make it very plausible. A delicious celebrity dish.

And that is only the beginning of the yearly dose of pink cinema,
Check the full program on:




In the New Issue of Gay News, 336, August/ Pride 2019

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